Modesto council poised to hire its first auditor in eight years

The Modesto City Council is expected Tuesday to hire its first in-house auditor in eight years.

The auditor would replace Moss Adams, the Seattle-based consulting firm that has served as auditor for several years. But the change has drawn questions from two council members because it is expected to cost more and they were not aware of problems with Moss Adams.

A city report identifies the new auditor as Monica Houston but did not provide information about her background and experience. But she emailed The Bee information about her career.

She was most recently a manager for the National Futures Association in Chicago, according to the email. Before that, she was the chief audit officer for the South Carolina Retirement System Investment Commission for nearly six years. She is a certified public accountant and a certified fraud examiner.

She has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Syracuse University and a master’s in personal financial planning from Georgia State University.

Houston declined to comment until after Tuesday’s council meeting.

A 2008 amendment to city charter created the position of city auditor. A previous council in 2010 fired the city’s first auditor after 18 months for failing to meet its expectations in uncovering inefficiencies in city operations. The city hired Moss Adams in 2011.

The current council in June approved Mayor Ted Brandvold’s request to move to an in-house auditor as part of this year’s budget, but council members Doug Ridenour and Jenny Kenoyer have said they were concerned about the cost and were not aware of problems with Moss Adams.

The current budget has set aside more than $360,000 for an in-house auditor, an assistant for the auditor, and $100,000 for outside help, which is about twice the cost of Moss Adams.

But Brandvold has said having an in-house auditor should pay for itself over time as the auditor saves Modesto money as he or she finds more efficient ways for the city to operate than a contract auditor not based in City Hall.

The report says Houston will make $148,000 a year and receive other benefits, including a $6,000 annual car allowance. The city also will pay her moving and related-expenses and as much as $1,500 a month for up to six months for Houston’s temporary-transitional housing costs.

The report says Brandvold and Councilmen Mani Grewal and Doug Ridenour conducted a nationwide search for city auditor on behalf of the council and with help from human resources. Houston was interviewed by the council in closed session.

The council meets at 5:30 p.m. in the basement chambers of Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St.